By GEORGETTE M. DORN
The Library's Hispanic Division and the Latin America Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars co-sponsored an international symposium, "21st Century Public Policy in the Americas," on Feb. 22 and 23. The conference was made possible by a grant from the Tinker Foundation.
Symposium events began at the Wilson Center with a dinner for the participants and invited guests. The keynote speaker, Lee Hamilton, a former member of Congress and director of the Wilson Center, provided a broad picture of Latin America during the past 20 years and pointed out trends marking "the emergence of Latin America as an increasingly democratic, open and vibrant region." Stating that the Latin American countries are among the United States' most important allies, he said, "The United States should reinvigorate efforts to advance hemispheric trade."
Dr. Billington, a former director of the Wilson Center, opened the symposium in the Mumford Room and welcomed the participants, members of Congress, the diplomatic corps, scholars and public policy analysts. He thanked Martha Muse, chairman of the Tinker Foundation, who also attended.
"As the primary repository of knowledge in the service of the hemisphere's oldest democratic legislature, the Library of Congress is certainly the ideal venue for this symposium," Dr. Billington said.
The first panel, "Challenges to Democracy in the Americas," was chaired by Prosser Gifford, the Library's director of the Office of Scholarly Programs. Panelists included Lloyd Axworthy, director of the Liu Centre at the University of British Columbia and former foreign affairs minister of Canada; Ambassador Luidi Einaudi, assistant secretary of the Organization of American States; Ricardo Lagorio, deputy chief of mission of the Embassy of Argentina; and Arturo Valenzuela, director of the Center of Latin American Studies at Georgetown University and a member of the National Security Council until January of this year. Susan Kaufman Purcell, vice president of the Americas Society, was the commentator.
Mr. Axworthy quoted James Madison about the need to "nurture the roots of democracy." He described the role of collective intervention in fostering democracy, electoral reform and a system of accountability to strengthen democracy in Latin America and cited the recent case of Peru.
The Organization of American States is increasingly important in this respect, according to Ambassador Einaudi. Mr. Valenzuela agreed with the other panelists that growing multilateralism in the hemisphere and the constant communication among the countries' presidents would lead to furthering civil societies. He said the United States should endeavor to support multilateralism.
In her comments, Ms. Purcell reflected that the most economically developed countries in the hemisphere were also the most stable democracies and reminded the audience that NAFTA played a strong role in fostering open trade.
The topic of the second panel, chaired by Iêda Siqueira Wiarda, Luso-Brazilian specialist of the Library's Hispanic Division, was "Sustainable Development in the Americas," which looked at problems concerning the environment. David Bray, chairman of the Department of International Environmental Studies at Florida International University; Thomas Lovejoy, chief biodiversity adviser to the World Bank; John R. McNeill of the Department of History at Georgetown University; and Catherine A. Christen of the Smithsonian Institution all analyzed problems of preserving the ecology of various regions of Latin America. Mr. Bray focused on sustainable and unsustainable land use in the 21st century, forest management and protected areas.
Mr. Lovejoy, who said the panel was indeed "timely," concentrated on specific problems of Brazil's ecology. He stressed that "sustainable development had to include thinking about urban areas" and pollution-oriented projects. He also mentioned the growth of private-sector involvement in Central America, Mexico and other areas. Ms. Christen referred to strategies of conservation biologists, and Mr. McNeill said sustainable development begins in the cities; he emphasized the urgency of environment-conscious politics in the Western Hemisphere. Joseph Tulchin, director of the Latin America Program of the Wilson Center, offered comments.
The third panel focused on "Culture and the Humanities in the Americas." Roberto González Echevarría, Sterling Professor of Hispanic and Comparative Literature at Yale University, spoke about "Poetry on the Rooftops"—the dazzling constellation of Cuban writers surviving the strictures of their island's political situation. Franklin Knight, the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University, spoke of the tradition of analyzing the progress of history since the 18th century.
Dolores Moyano Martin, former editor of the Handbook of Latin American Studies, focused on literary archetypes and myths that dominate political culture, such as the Luso-Hispanic "hero," for example Cid Campeador, the hero of the film El Cid, and Ernesto "Che" Guevara. José Neistein, director of the Brazilian-American Cultural Institute, discussed the lasting impact of Brazil on world art. Commentator Kenneth Maxwell, director of the Latin America Program of the Council on Foreign Relations, offered commentaries on the role of memory in looking forward.
Barbara Tenenbaum, specialist in Mexican culture in the Library's Hispanic Division, chaired the last panel, which dealt with "The Information Age in the Western Hemisphere." Miguel Basañez, president of the Global Quality Research Corp., pointed out that information exchange is an important agent of change. He said public opinion polling "destroyed my biases and prejudices."
Georgie Anne Geyer, a columnist with the Universal Press Syndicate, focused on the print press, which, despite global coverage, seems to cover less, as "we have fewer foreign correspondents in Latin America."
Peter Johnson, curator of the Iberian and Latin American Collection at Princeton University Library, focused on how information manages to be brokered and the role of technological leadership in fostering civil society. He pointed out the costs of not bridging the "digital divide" in the Americas. Fernando Silva-Pinto, president of Idea Television, stressed that technologies and content define the Information Age, as much as the printing press and transoceanic navigation defined the dawn of the modern age. However, he said, there will always be the need for music, and hand-held books will never disappear.
Commentator Prosser Gifford, confirming what the panelists had presented, noted that communication patterns have changed radically in the past decade. He pointed out the enormous richness of sources on the Western Hemisphere available on the Internet.
Ms. Dorn is chief of the Hispanic Division. She chaired the panel on "Culture and the Humanities in the Americas."